The Jay Kim Show #64: Bedros Keuilian (Transcript)
Today we have a very special guest by the name of Bedros Keuilian on the show. Bedros is a bestselling author, speaker, business consultant who is also the founder and CEO of Fit Body Boot Camp, one of the nation’s fastest growing fitness franchises. Bedros is also an investor in over a dozen companies ranging from subscription software platforms, digital ad agencies, as well as mastermind and coaching services.
But it always wasn’t like this for him. Bedros has a true rags-to-riches story — which I’m sure you’re going to love hearing about — from being so broke that he had to dig through dumpsters for food to now being a wildly successful entrepreneur. Bedros shares his incredible journey with us today. Alright, let’s get right on to the show.
Jay: Hey, Bedros. Thank you so much for joining us on the Jay Kim show. Welcome.
Bedros: Thank you so much for having me, Jay. It’s a pleasure to be here.
Jay: Man. I first heard about you because I was listening to Lewis Howes’ podcast, and I heard you on the show, and I watched your interview with him, and I was like, man, you have such an unbelievable story that I need to talk to this guy. As luck would have it, our mutual friend Craig Ballantyne was on my show recently, and so I’m very fortunate to have so. So thank you again for coming on and for your time.
For the audience listening in, maybe you could give us a quick introduction. Who is Bedros Keuilian, and what do you do for a living?
Bedros: Sure, sure. Basically, my name is Bedros Keuilian, and the easiest way to describe who I am, what I do, I am the immigrant edge, and I am the American dream. A good friend of mine kind of gave me that immigrant edge moniker, and he said, “You’re the immigrant edge,” because at the time, the year was 2009, the economy had just crashed here in the United States. Unemployment was through the roof, over 11%, and I was happily building a franchise called Fit Body Boot Camp. I had just started the building of my franchise. And he stopped me, and he said, “Why are you building a franchise with the economy crashing like this all around us? Who’s going to buy your franchise? Everyone is broke.”
And I remember saying, the money didn’t go away. The money just exchanged hands. And it’s up to me to figure out who’s got the money know and sell them my franchise.
And so today, being 2017, we have over 500 locations of our Fit Body Boot Camp franchise worldwide. We’re adding an average of 20 new locations per month on the global map. We are listed on the Inc. 5000 list twice, Entrepreneur’s top 15 franchises in 2015. And so I’m just a really lucky guy that came from a communist country and used every opportunity that they wonderful country gives us, and I’ve become the American dream. Now my goal, my purpose is to pay it forward to all entrepreneurs, thought leaders, anyone who’s got an idea, vision, or a charity, even — to take that idea, vision, charity, or business to its fullest potential.
Jay: I think it’s… Yeah, you’ve accomplished so much, and you remain very modest and humble, which is awesome too. In addition to that luck, you also did a lot of hard work. If you could just give us some color on your early struggles and when you came over. I think your story is fascinating. I’m American, but my father was a first-generation immigrant as well, from Korea. And I think a lot of first-generation immigrants from any country coming to America that probably didn’t speak the language, I think they share a lot of the similar struggles. And there’s a lot of success stories with the American dream. So I’d love, if you don’t mind, just share your story with the audience.
Bedros: Yeah, absolutely. I bet your father has a very similar story to this. In 1980, my father bribed the Soviet government with 25,000 rubles, and we escaped into Italy. The reason we escaped into Italy was because if you told the Soviet government that we’re going to go to America, they would have probably killed my father. So we escaped into Italy, and the idea was that we would go to the American consul, and my dad would say, “Look, I’m a member of the Communist Party. I don’t want to be a member of the Communist Party, and so we’re here on political asylum.” And that’s exactly what we did.
When we came to the United States, Jay, we were so poor and broke that when one of the times I got lice in my hair from living in some really crappy apartments that we lived in, one of the many apartments… Just to give you an idea, the first year and a half, we lived in 14 different apartments and moved around that much. And so when you move around that much, and you have a lower standard of living, you might get lice. And I got lice, and we didn’t have money. We were poor. We were broke. So my mom and had dad siphon out gasoline from a car, and she washed my hair in the front yard of this apartment complex with gasoline.
Certain nights, when we didn’t have food, my dad had discovered that grocery stores, they throw out food in their dumpsters when the food is expired or maybe it’s gone bad. Maybe it has a little bit of mold, but if you pick of the mold, you can still salvage it. And so my dad would put me into the dumpster. For me, it was more like a treasure hunt where I would go on this treasure hunt. My mom would say, “Get that milk, and get the cheese, and pick up the bread. Get that lettuce.” They would tear off the mold or we would peel away the leaves until we go to the good leaf, and we would eat that.
But we didn’t understand the culture. We didn’t have any money. The mindset we had was, we’re in a country that offers freedom and opportunity, but where is it? So my parents all had multiple jobs. My older brother and sister had multiple jobs, and it was my job, as the kid — I was six years old at the time when we came to America — to dumpster dive, probably three to four times a week and fish out the food from the dumpsters that were edible. And that’s how we got by the first six months to a year in this country.
Jay: That’s so incredible. My dad used to tell me… You know, when you’re a kid, you’ve got to finish your food. I was very fortunate. My father already had a stable job when I was growing up, but he used to say “The clean plate club,” that whole thing, which is ironic because on the fitness side, it’s an invisible script now that isn’t a positive thing. But he used to always tell me—
Bedros: Just your like your dad, my dad said the same thing to me. And of course, since we didn’t have food around, it was, when there is food, you eat it all. Today I own many different companies, the biggest one being Fit Body Boot Camp. But we do, financially, really well, and we’re very blessed, but even today, when there’s food in front of me, I feel like, even if I’m full, I have to finish it, and if I don’t, then I’m doing a disservice. And so as a fitness person, I’m still fighting my old habits of, “Finish everything that’s on your plate,” even though, as a fitness person, I know that I should stop even before I’m full. So that’s the irony there.
Jay: Yeah, that’s exactly what I was going to say. It’s a struggle, so I’m glad I’m not the only one that struggles with that. So let’s continue on your amazing, incredible story. From there, what was your progression?
Bedros: My progression was kind of one of desperation. What I mean by that is as I grew up, ultimately my dad bought a little tailor store because he was a tailor back in Armenia in the Soviet government, and he bought a little tailor store in Anaheim, and my mom worked there; my brother worked there; my sister went to school, and I went to school. When you grow up on government-assisted food, you get the government cheese. You get the government peanut butter, government bread, government bologna. It’s all high-calorie foods that are really bad for you. So by the time I reached high school, man, I was pretty overweight. I was out of shape, and I was 35 pounds overweight in high school, and I knew senior year was coming up because now this was 11th grade, and I knew senior year, we get to go to prom. And all I wanted to do was ask a girl out to the prom.
So my goal was that if I could somehow lose the 35 pounds that I’d gained, or that I needed to lose, the summer before senior year, I would have the confidence to ask this girl out. I read every muscle magazine. I learned all about nutrition and working out. And that summer, I did lose the 35 pounds. I came back to school the senior year in better shape. I had more confidence, more self-esteem, making eye contact with people. What was really neat was people actually started to talk to me. The other students finally started to talk to me. I know it’s not fair or whatever, but at the end of the day, they’re kids. And when you’re kind of a foreigner, and you have a funny haircut and funny clothes, and you’re fat and out of shape, you are invisible, unfortunately. And that’s who I was.
So as I started making friends, I started getting confident, like, man, I’m going to ask this girl out to the prom. So as prom came about, I never worked up the nerve to ask her to the prom, so I never went to the prom. But my life had forever changed because through working out and eating right, all I wanted to do was help other people achieve this outcome — the self-esteem, the high confidence, the ability to be visible again.
And so after high school, I went and got certified as a personal trainer. I went to college for a whopping one semester and dropped out, but my goal was to get a degree in exercise science, but the education system was not for me. I’ve got ADD and OCD, and when I lock onto something that’s not educational, forget it. No teacher or professor can take me off of my lock on.
As it turns out, that habit of locking onto things with OCD and having this ADD type creative mentality was the best thing as an entrepreneur. So I eventually became a personal trainer. One my personal training clients, his name is Jim Franco. He was my mentor. While I was training him during our workouts, he would give me some advice on business and becoming an entrepreneur and would encourage me to open up my own small gym, because I worked at a big box gym where I got paid $11 an hour to train him.
So through his mentoring and tutorship, I opened up my first personal training studio which was about 2200 square feet in San Diego and officially became an entrepreneur, and it was a really neat experience because without that, without Jim Franco being in my life, I imagine how much longer it would have taken me to make that leap of entrepreneurship.
Jay: That’s incredible. First of all, to your point on entrepreneurs, I had a guest on, Dr. John Ratey, who wrote this book called Spark. You may have read it. He talks about how the brain, the mind-body connection, exercise is good for the brain and this sort of thing, but he was saying they were doing studies, and a lot of entrepreneurs, they exhibit the same tendencies as people diagnosed with ADD or ADHD. It’s one of those where your mind is moving in all directions, and exercise was one of the ways that he was able to treat ADD people. As a parallel, I think that exercise is very good for entrepreneurs because I think it’s a number one productivity hack. For me, I know I work out of the mornings, and the days that I work out, my brain is on fire. The shower thoughts afterwards is like a hundred different things versus a day that I sleep in, and I skip a workout.
Bedros: You know what’s funny about that? You absolutely nailed it. When I talk to entrepreneurs today, I go, “Hey, do you exercise?”
They go, “No, I haven’t made time for it.”
I say, “You’re here because you want to make more money. You’ve hired me because you want to make more money. Right?”
“And you say you’ll do everything I say where your business is concerned.”
“Would you believe it if I said if you went to the gym four to five days a week and worked out really hard for 30, just give me 30 minutes, that you would make more money?”
And oftentimes, they’ll challenge me about, “I don’t have time,” “I don’t know how,” and all these excuses. And when I explanation to them the parallels of entrepreneurship and working out… For example, people who are looking to grow a business, if you’re looking to take a business from $100,000 a year to $1 million a year, or $1 million to $10 million, make no mistake about it, you are going to face adversity. You’re going to face challenges. Most entrepreneurs tend to want to quit when they first face adversity because they go, “Well, failure must be a sign from above that I’m not supposed to do this.”
In reality, when you go to the gym and work out — and Jay, you know this — when you’re working out, sometimes you lift the weights until failure because you know that once you can’t lift the weights anymore, that’s when you have broken down enough muscle that you can rebuild it stronger and bigger and more resilient for the next time. So it’s funny that in the gym, we will work out, and we will stress our bodies because we know it’s good for us, but the moment that entrepreneurs start to feel stress and adversity against their entrepreneurial muscles in the work space, they start giving up. So I always say, “Look, if you’re going to give up this easy as an entrepreneur, go work out in the gym. And the same effort you do to burn fat and build muscle is the same effort you need to build your empire.” And all of a sudden, the mental connection has been made.
Jay: That’s such a great analogy there, Bedros. Now you have your own studio. Let’s get back to your story. Now you have your own exercise studio. That in and of itself is difficult to do. But many people, they hit a roadblock there. They can’t manage more than one studio. They’re done. And a lot of them fail because they can’t manage their finances well, so they can’t cover their overhead, and they can’t pick up enough customers. How did you go from there to scaling that business?
Bedros: Ultimately, I learned that if I want to make more money and make a bigger impact with helping people through fitness, one studio wasn’t enough because I could only help so many people. So I started to hire personal trainers who worked for me. And through each personal trainer, I was able to reach out and touch more clients in my community. But I knew at that point that my purpose was more than just working with 40 or 50 clients or even a couple hundred.
Later I realized, down the road, that I’ve got a mission to touch 100 million lives worldwide. To do that, you need more than just one location with a handful of personal trainers working for you. So I opened five locations and ultimately built those up and had 60 personal trainers working for me, and we had several hundred clients throughout San Diego County that we were training, which was great. But I still had a bigger vision.
Right around that time when I had my fifth location and was building it up, a company came through and offered to buy me out. Here’s the funny thing. The only reason they bought me out, Jay — and this is a great piece of business advice for anyone listening — is that I had built in recurring income, meaning I didn’t charge my clients once and then go back and sell them again next month and then go back and sell them again the next month. I would charge you once, and then after that, we would bill you over and over again, just like Netflix or any kind of subscription model. And so what they were really buying from me was all of the receivable that we had gotten from clients over the next 12 months, that are scheduled to come in over the next 12 months. So I got really fortunate there that my mentor, Jim Franco, taught me to sell once and collect over and over and over again. That was a big mental break through for me.
So when I sold my businesses, I said, what do I do moving forward? Do I open up more gyms, or do I coach and consult more personal trainers? And through all these personal trainers worldwide, I can really impact lives and help people lose weight and get fit. And these people will never know me, but I don’t care because I would have this impact through the fitness industry.
So I got into coaching and consulting personal trainers. And that went really well. I fact, I still do that, and many of the big celebrity personal trainers worldwide have been my clients at some point in time. And in 2009, 2010, as the economy was kind of in the midst of that recession, I realized that a lot of people can’t afford one-on-one personal training. It’s just too expensive. And with this economy so low, unless you’re the elite, you couldn’t afford one-on-one personal training. What if we could do one-on-many personal training and reduce the cost of personal training? That’s where the idea of Fit Body Boot Camp came.
And the idea is one personal trainer, 20 to 25, maybe 30 clients. People sometimes will challenge me and say, “Yeah, but is that really personal training?”
I say, “You do realize that high-level coaches train NFL-level athletes in groups, super athletes in groups. Why can’t we take the average Mr. or Mrs. Jones who has fat to lose and needs to change their eating habits, and why couldn’t we train them in a group?”
So I started that Fit Body Boot Camp model. We franchised in 2012, and today we have over 540 locations worldwide, and we’re adding an average of 15 to 20 new locations per month to the map.
Jay: That is unbelievable. You have locations outside of the US as well?
Bedros: Yes, sir. We’re on — let’s see here — six countries, three continents.
Jay: Gosh, that’s unbelievable. Are you still involved in the day-to-day sort of stuff, or have you kind of handed that off, and it’s kind of running on its own?
Bedros: No business ever runs on its own, and I don’t care what anybody says. It just doesn’t. But I’ve handed it off as much as I can. I’ve got a really great team behind me. I’ve got two VPs of my company, and they make sure that the day-to-day operations are running. But I still do a lot of the big thinking, brainstorming sessions with my team. The difference is I don’t have to execute anymore. I get to delegate, and they execute. And so I get to go out and find more business partners and opportunities. So I have about a dozen different companies that I’m either on the board of or have equity in, the biggest one, obviously, being Fit Body Boot Camp — I’m 100% owner of that — but a dozen different companies throughout the fitness/health/wellness/technology industries.
It’s really neat to be able to just have a meeting, brainstorm, make the right introductions and connections with the people that they need, and then they can go out and execute. So my job these days is really more higher level thinking and delegation and not so much go out and execute and do the work.
Jay: For the audience listening in that hasn’t heard of Fit Body Boot Camp, obviously it’s group coaching, but what is the basic business model there? Let’s say you want to open up a location?
Bedros: Sure. So the business model is really simple. It really helped being a one-on-one personal trainer because I saw all the flaws in that model. One, unless you know how to really sell like a machine, like Grant Cardone level, it’s hard to sell someone on a $700 to a $1200 a month program. You either have to find really affluent people or you have to find people who are sitting on a trust fund or something. It’s not like everybody can afford one-on-one personal training. So I knew that was one problem. So, affordability.
Convenience. In other words, if you’re a personal trainer, Jay, and I want to work out with you, but you already have a client on Monday, Wednesday, Friday at 9 a.m., and I want to work out at 9 a.m., I’m out of luck. I have to either work out at 8 a.m. or 10 a.m. with you. So I needed convenience.
And then I also realized that each of my personal training gyms had about 12 personal trainers working for me. And I didn’t want payroll to be so high with this new model. So I said, if we have 30-minute workout sessions because we’re going to do everything that is high-intensity interval training and create the after burn, it’s affordable now between $150 to $200 a month to work out at a Fit Body Boot Camp. You get every single result that a personal trainer delivers, including the monthly fitness evaluates and all that great stuff — nutrition coaching… You have a third less employees, which is fantastic. So your payroll is much smaller. Your profit margins are higher. And, of course, you can have 20 to 30 clients working out at the same time. So you have convenience.
So you have affordability, convenience, and high profit margins. And the model is just that. We’ve got owner-operated locations where the owner will do the training, and they might have a front-desk person who does the selling of the memberships. And then they might have maybe another person who follows up with leads and clients. So a three-person team can run one location, which is pretty unheard of. But that also accounts for our 35 to 40% profit margins.
Jay: Wow. Okay. And it runs on the franchise model where…? Okay. [Inaudible 00:22:10] too. Okay. That’s pretty cool.
Bedros: There’s a buy-in fee, monthly royalty. We do all the done-for-you marketing for them, and it really is a turnkey business, just like a Subway or a 7-Eleven, whatever.
Jay: Yeah, that’s awesome. You’re like the Subway or 7-Eleven of fitness. I think you mentioned reaching 100 million customers or something like that number. Was that your goal, and it is that still your goal?
Bedros: Yeah, that is our goal. Our goal now is to reach 100 million people worldwide through fitness, nutrition, and positive mindset, which are the three things that Fit Body Boot Camp delivers, by the year 2025. So we’re well on our way. We’re currently reaching about 10 million people a day through Fit Body Boot Camp, so I know that as long as we keep growing our franchise, and our franchisees back me up on this mission — and they do, because we’ve got an amazing team of owners… I’m definitely not the visionary. I’m the guy that started it, but it takes an amazing team of owners worldwide to really move this brand forward like it is.
So our goal is to have another 3,000 locations worldwide by the year 2025. And when we do that, we’ll be touching about 100 million lives a day.
Jay: That’s unbelievable. I can’t wait to track the progress, because I think that you guys will far surpass that in the long run. So, Bedros, what else are you working on these days? I know it’s not like you have a lack of things to do, but I know that you are doing a couple of different things. I’ve seen you do some shows with our mutual friend Craig. What have you got in the pipeline?
Bedros: There’s really two things that I do outside of Fit Body Boot Camp these day. I’m still a coach. The difference is I don’t coach people in their fitness and their health anymore. Well, I guess I do through our franchise, but I don’t personally go out and train people. But I still love connecting with people and taking them to their fullest potential. But these days, the coaching I deliver is really high-level business coaching. So anyone who’s got a business that’s doing $500,000 to $1 million or more, Craig and I created a mastermind called The Empire Mastermind, and we help them take that half-a-million to a million-dollar business to five, ten, twenty million, just like I did with Fit Body Boot Camp here over a five year period. So I just replicate this model of structure, skill, and time collapsing. You can do things in a shorter period of time. You don’t have to take a decade to build a $10 million, $20 million, $30 million company. You can do it in three to five years like I have.
It’s the mastermind that I do, and I love coaching entrepreneurs who are driven and really have a significant… They have this drive to make an impact in the community they serve.
I wrote a book recently called Man Up. The book title is Man Up: Cut Your Bullshit and Dominate Your Path, and it’s really for entrepreneurs who are stuck spinning their wheels. They know they can reach their fullest potential, but they’re missing the three most important ingredients, which is leadership, clarity of vision, and a high-performance team, and not just employees who clock in and clock out and leave early.
In fact, that was the big shift that I made, those three things in my life that helped me scale Fit Body Boot Camp and all my other businesses so quickly. The book Man Up comes out July of 2018, and I’m really excited for that.
Jay: Wow. That’s amazing. We’ll definitely have to… I don’t know if you have a landing page yet for that or anything, any background on it, but we’ll definitely link that up.
Talking about the three points, if you can give us further information on that… The leadership part, what exactly do you suggest on that?
Bedros: Absolutely. So where leadership is concerned, there are three very big points. Point number one is a great leader of any business — heck, even a leader of a family — needs to be decisive. The number one thing that causes entrepreneurs to bleed more money, have big anxiety attacks, just like I used too… I’m an open book, and Craig and I have that in common, which is why we’re business partners. We bled money. We were indecisive. And we had massive anxiety attacks. And that is because not making a decision is making a decision. It is letting circumstances decide your outcome and your fate.
Where leadership is concerned there’s three specific things. Be more decisive. Make decisions fast. If they’re the wrong decisions, you’ll know soon enough, and you can course correct. If it’s the right decisions, then you can haul ass down that path. General Colin Powell has a great, great thing in his book. He says he is ready to make a decision when he has as little as 40% of the information he needs to pull the trigger and as much as 70% of the information he needs.
Most entrepreneurs find themselves spinning their wheels because they’re looking to get 100% clarity and facts and information before they pull the trigger. While they’re doing that, someone like me has already made the decision. And if it was the right decision, I’ve surpassed them. If it was the wrong decision, I’ll find out soon enough and then surpass them.
So it’s become decisive. Communicate clearly and openly with your team. In fact, a Harvard Business study did a recent survey and found that 87% of CEOs do not communicate the message to their team that they have in their head. Now imagine that. What kind of clarity does your team have if they’re not clear on a vision?
So you’ve got to be decisive, communicate very clearly and obsessively, and of course, the third and final thing as a leader is concerned is to stop emotionally reacting to things because bad things will happen. Employees will quit. They will embezzle money. You will have competition. Bad things just happen. The IRS will audit you. That’s just part of being an entrepreneur. Stop emotionally reacting, and start responding strategically to issues, challenges, and adversities that come up. If you can do that as a leader, then you’ve got pillar number one of manning up locked down.
Jay: That’s awesome. Thanks for sharing that. I can’t wait to get my hands on a copy of the book in 2018. Bedros, we really appreciate having you on and your time. As we look to wrap up, I’ve just got a couple of last questions for you. You’ve had such an incredible rags-to-riches type story. You’ve figured out…hard work and a little bit of luck, but just making the right decisions along the way… Now, after having enjoyed a lot of that success, I think that one of the biggest questions that I know a lot of people probably have is, what keeps you going? What keeps you driven day after day? You’ve had an exit in a business. You have multiple businesses now. Financially, you’re doing extremely well. What’s the secret? How do you stay driven yet still humble at the same time, but keeping you every day getting up and still building?
Bedros: I’m really glad you asked that question, Jay, because, man, I look around right now in society, and you see that the number of prescriptions that are written today for mood-altering drugs, for depression, etc., are just through the roof. And the reason for that is people are no longer living a purposeful life. They’re no longer looking for significance. We are looking for shallow approval.
What I mean by that is people will post something on Instagram and Facebook, and they’ll count many likes and comments and shares they got, and that gives them a temporary high. The high that we’re looking for as humans is not a temporary high from social media. We need to do something bigger and better. Every human, I believe, is born with a gift. It’s your job to figure out what your gift is and develop that gift into your purpose. If you don’t live your purpose — I’ll give you a great example.
I’ve got a dog who’s part Mastiff and part German Shepherd. German Shepherds are known to fall into a depression when they don’t have a purpose, when they don’t have other things to shepherd or go out and play ball. So every morning, I’m out there playing ball with my dog, and I can see that she’s happy. If I happen to miss a day or two, she starts slumping into a depression. So for me, one, I know that I’ve got a gift, and my time on this planet is limited, and I’ve got to reach my fullest potential with that gift.
Number two, I do it for my mental sanity because I know that if I don’t attempt to reach my fullest potential with my purpose and my gift, I will fall into depression, and I will be part of the sea of mediocrity who is constantly looking for the shallow level of approval versus building an empire that serves a community.
Jay: That’s unbelievable. Purpose — that’s such an important thing that have. Bedros, man, thanks so much for coming on and sharing your incredible story and for all the advice that you’ve given and just for your time. We really appreciate you. What’s the best place that people can find you, follow you, connect with you, and learn a little bit more about what you’re working on?
Bedros: Sure. The best place is either on social media — Instagram, Facebook. My handle is BedrosKeuilian. Or they can just find me at ManUp.com, and they can learn all about me and my upcoming book.
Jay: That’s awesome. Can’t wait till that drops. We look forward to catching up with you again in the future.
Bedros: Awesome. Thank you so much for the opportunity, Jay. I really appreciate you.
Jay: Alright. Thanks. Take care.
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